After being released from Astravets remand prison, Russian nuclear physicist Andrei Ozharovski gave exclusive interview to www.charter97.org website.
As we have informed the ecologist was detained at public hearings dedicated to construction of a nuclear power plant in Belarus which were held in Astravets on October 9. Andrei Ozharovski tried to bring into the assembly hall “Critical remarks concerning Belarusian nuclear power station’s preliminary environmental impact statement”, and for that he was charged with “petty hooliganism” for that and arrested for 7 days.
- Andrei, why were you arrested during the public hearings on the nuclear power station, to you mind?
- It is obvious that a provocation was staged against me. And it demonstrates that organisers of the public hearings feared so much that we would reveal their direct deceit, their fraudulent estimation of the nuclear power station in Belarus, that they decided to use policemen in plainclothes who were ordered to witness that I committed hooliganism.
Policemen in plainclothes tried to prevent me from entering the assembly hall, though I was registered as a participant. The absurdity of the situation that in the of the court decision it was stated that my violation was “an attempt to burst way to public hearings”.
And policemen acted like bandits. Only in the court I found out that people in plainclothes who seized me were policemen. What should I think during the arrest? Kidnapping still exists. I have never met such things either in my country or in yours. Such provocations are some Belarusian novelty.
- In general, how would you estimate this event, “public hearings” on nuclear power plant construction in Belarus?
- It was not public hearings judging by international standards. It was a meeting held by supporters of atomic power energetic with participation of labour collectives in Astravets. Many independent experts hadn’t been allowed to enter the room at all, most opponents of the nuclear power plant hadn’t been given the floor; I was arrested for an attempt to bring scientific research documents into the room. Instead the room was filled by people who had been brought there intentionally.
Do you know what has amazed me? The assembly hall was heavily controlled by policemen in plainclothes. They vigilantly observed what was going on there, and they had communications equipment in their ears. The chief officer of the police department Damuch was sitting in the room with a badge “Organizing committee”, and most of the time he stopped people and pushed them away from the doors.
These are the methods used here. In any case, such shows are not staged in Russia. But it is possible that by next hearings they would act the same. They have fear, that's the thing.
- What do the Belarusian authorities fear?
- It was clear to everybody that the public hearings are not only an advertising campaign for atomic power industry, and their deception could have been exposed there. In our “Critical remarks concerning Belarusian nuclear power station’s preliminary environmental impact statement” we stated that the Belarusian authorities are engaged in sheer deception of the society.
Primarily, it seemed to me that they had fear that we would make known that the size of emergency pollution by Caesium-137, for instance, had been belittled by them thousand times. We have compared these figures with those estimated for a nuclear power plant in Finland. It turned out that in Finland the distance of effect is 1,000 kilometres, while in Belarus they told lies and said that the effect is only possible at 3 kilometre distance! By the way, the border with Lithuania is very close, and the real effect distance is almost till Smolensk.
- So why the authorities have held the hearings?
- The hearings have been held for the sake of appearance, to demonstrate formal observation of the law. They wanted to show that Belarus follows the Aarhus Convention (The Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters), and ESPO convention. But under international standards these were not public hearings! The audience was filled by intentionally invited people, in order to continue their lies. It is right in form, and in essence it was mockery.
- In what conditions you served the arrest?
- I sit in a remand prison of Astravets. There were two persons in the cell. My cell mate was a local peasant. It was very cold, and even vapour appeared from one’s mouth, but I know that central heating hadn’t been switched in the whole country then. I was saved by my friends who brought be warm clothes, as I had been arrested in a jacket and a shirt. The most important thing is that they brought a sleeping bag for me, as otherwise I would die of cold. They treated me with respect in the remand prison, not in humiliating way. The food was normal, though I had to pay for it. I was surprised by that, as in Russia the state cares for the arrested.
- What would you say about the Belarusian legal system during the trial over you?
- Policemen in plainclothes prevented witnesses and human rights activists to enter the court room. One person was simply thrown out of the court room by force. When he fell down, he hit the metal railing by his head. These people in mufti organized a proper jostle in the court.
It was obvious at the trial that judge Yankovski understood that there were no elements of a crime in my actions. It was said in evidence given by policemen that I tried to enter the public hearings, but it is not a crime; I had documents with me, but it is not a crime; I demanded representatives of the organizing committee – and it is not a crime either! But after that people in plainclothes attacked me and dragged me to the court. Policemen called my behaviour “provocative”. It became a reason for my arrest.
The judge asked suggestive questions. For instance, he asked: “Was the behaviour of Mr Ozharovski provocative?” And policemen readily answered: “Yes! Yes!”
I do not want to show disrespect to the court, but I cannot say that the court looked at the testimony of witnesses, these strange people in plainclothes, who attacked me without presenting themselves and producing any credentials, with a critical eye.
I filed a complaint to the regional court against the ruling of the district court, but I think that the regional court is unlikely to adopt an unbiased decision, they are most likely to rubberstamp the decision of Astravets court, as otherwise they would have to apologize and confess that they had been acting in defiance of the law.